UK: Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious Comes through First ‘War’ Since USD 63 Million Refit

Training & Education

Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious Comes through First ‘war’ Since USD 63 Million Refit

Helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious has come through her first mock war since her £40m revamp earlier this year as she continues her rigorous training ready for front-line duties in the new year.

The 22,000-tonne warship is in the hands of the Navy’s premier trainers, Flag Officer Sea Training, who’ve lined up seven weeks of exacting tests, trials and exercises to prepare the ship’s company for impending tasks.

The team at FOST devise various exercises through each week – air defence, submarine hunting, disaster relief, civilian evacuations, firefighting and damage control – and there’s one constant: Thursday is always all-out war.

For Lusty’s first Thursday War in a couple of years, 50 FOST staff filed aboard to assess the performance of the ship’s company – and lay on a few surprises for them, such as dropping smoke canisters to simulate fire.

She had to fend off fast jet attacks as they ‘launched’ missiles and ‘dropped’ bombs and thwart submarines’ attempts to cripple her with torpedoes – and at 686ft long and more than 100ft wide, she presents a very inviting target to air, surface and sub-surface targets.

It would be too easy if the ship’s ring of defences simply smote all attackers, so the FOST team ensure that at least some of the bombs, torpedoes and missiles get through and cause fires, flooding and machinery breakdowns.

“This was our first Thursday War and there’s no doubt that the operations room team have gained a great deal from the advice of the training staff,”

said Warfare Officer Lt Colin Armstrong.

“We listened carefully and, taking that forward, I’ve no doubt that we’ll develop our capability to deal with a multitude of threats quickly and effectively.”

In the middle of all her training, Illustrious has also been visited by Britain’s second most senior sailor, Commander-in-Chief Fleet Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, who commanded Lusty’s now-defunct sister HMS Invincible nearly a decade ago.

He chatted with numerous members of the ship’s company and watched them tackle a variety of problems caused by the FOST staff – and was impressed by what he witnessed.

“The team onboard look in great shape – they’re obviously receptive to their training, so I expect great things,”

the Admiral said.

“Following this period of Operational Sea Training, Lusty and her ship’s company need to be ready, very ready, to deploy on operations anywhere in the world at very short notice.”

He’s now back on dry land, while the ship’s training continues until the beginning of next month.

Source: royalnavy, November 11, 2011